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rapid prototyping

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The next generation of manufacturing is rapidly upon, if you will excuse the pun. Rapid prototyping and 3D metal printing is about to get considerably faster and cheaper, if you believe the hype surrounding manufacturing startup Desktop Metal, which just got another $115 million in funding, I might add.

Until now, traditional 3D metal printers relied on lasers to melt metal powders so they could be “printed” into complex shapes, which not only limited what alloys could be used in those situations, but it was also fairly time intensive.

Using what it calls “microwave enhanced sintering” though, Desktop Metal can print with virtually any kind of metal (including steel, aluminum, titanium and copper), and do it at a much faster rate – 100x faster than other additive manufacturing processes, if you believe them.

It is hard to think how Kawasaki could make the Ninja H2 more modern, considering the bike’s supercharged engine, radical aerodynamics, and plethora of electronics. But, that didn’t stop the minds at Divergent 3D, a company that is specializing on making vehicles with 3D printing technology.

We have talked about 3D printing here at Asphalt & Rubber before, a technology that when the economies of scale finally take hold of it, should turn several industries on their heads.

For the Divergent 3D Dagger, you can see that the frame, swingarm, and fuel tank are built using Divergent’s 3D printing technology, which uses additive manufacturing to create metal-alloy nodes, and carbon fiber tubes to connect them, when applicable.

In the case of the Divergent 3D Dagger, our best information is that the machine’s chassis comprises solely of metals that have been 3D printed, sans the carbon fiber tubes that can be found on the company’s Blade supercar, though it wouldn’t be hard to change the design of the frame to employ carbon fiber.

We’ve talked a bit before about the virtues of 3D printing, and how this increasingly affordable technology could change the consumer landscape as far as how we buy basic parts in the motorcycle industry. For as practical as how 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, can be, it can also be beautiful and used for art. This story is sort of a merger of those two ideas. Jonathan Brand has hoped to buy a 1972 Honda CB500 motorcycle, but the birth of his son changed that plan. Where there is a will though, there is a way, and Brand came up with the next best thing — he built a life-size model of a CB500 with his 3D printer.

One day, 3D printing technology will fundamentally change the motorcycle industry. Currently however, companies use 3D printing, or rapid prototyping, to quickly and cheaply build parts for development machines. Enthusiasts also use the technology, though mostly as a novelty, which is the case here. A glimpse perhaps in how we will one day buy motorcycles, some clever modelers have “printed” a pretty convincing 3D copy of the Ducati 1199 Panigale. Built in CAD, and printed with a Ultimaker, the attention to detail is pretty astounding — note the chain that exactly meshes up with the front and rear sprockets. Forty pieces comprise the work, which have also been painted and lacquered to look like the genuine article.

A motorcycle is what the name implies: an engine with two wheels, and thus lends itself to being more accessible to both novice mechanics and expert builders alike. I myself gained my mechanical prowess by working not on a car, but on a motorcycle, and in the expert hands of tuners and accomplished customizers, true artistry can take place. Wherever you fall in between the two extremes of that spectrum, the ability to “print” replacement parts or new parts holds tremendous value. For someone like me, who loses small plastic tabs, screws, and other bits like it is his god-given mandate on this earth, the ability to create that lost part in a matter of minutes is a huge boon, not to mention it is easier on the wallet than the $5 nut or bolt that should cost $.01 at my local dealership.